Does it hurt? (Answer: No)

 

Many people are surprised to discover that they can't even feel the needles as they are inserted, or feel only a mild sensation (similar to a mosquito bite).  The reason for this is that acupuncture needles are much, much smaller than the types of needles used for injections or blood draws.

After the needle is inserted, the acupuncturist might gently rotate the needle (less than 180 degrees in either direction), or move the needle up or down 1-2 millimeters.  Whether or not this is done is determined by the therapeutic goals.  Patients will have a variety of sensations as the needle is thus manipulated, called 针感 ("needle feeling") in Chinese.  These sensations can include distention, tingling, mild soreness, heat, cold, or sensation that spreads to other parts of the body.  This is all a normal part of treatment.

Occasionally, you may experience a brief, sharp pain, like a paper cut.  This indicates that the needle has touched a tiny blood vessel.  While this is not harmful, it also has no therapeutic value, so your acupuncturist will adjust the position of the needle to make you more comfortable.

EVIDENCE MAP OF ACUPUNCTURE FOR WELLNESS

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EVIDENCE MAP OF ACUPUNCTURE FOR MENTAL HEALTH

How deep do the needles go in?

 

This depends on the area of the body where acupuncture is given.  Typically, the needles are inserted to the muscle layer.  For fleshier areas, such as the buttocks or legs, this is usually 1-2 inches.  For areas such as the scalp or hands, on the other hand, insertion may be only 1-2 millimeters.

EVIDENCE MAP OF ACUPUNCTURE FOR PAIN

                   How long does it take?

 

This varies based on therapeutic goals.  In general, acupuncture is given anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes.  The entire visit will last about an hour and a quarter.

what are the benefits?

 

According  to the World Health Organization, acupuncture has been proven through controlled trials to be an effective treatment for allergic rhinitis, depression, headache, low back pain, nausea and vomiting, knee pain, and the after effects of stroke, among many others.  See their website for a complete list: http://www.evidencebasedacupuncture.org/who-official-position/


The National Center for Biochemical Information has published the following evidence maps for the effects of acupuncture in managing wellness, pain, and mental health issues.  The evidence maps are based on randomized controlled studies and systematic reviews published in 2013 or earlier.